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The Independent/UK

Revealed: How Strategy to Train Afghan Forces is in Deep Trouble

IoS investigation finds Afghan army and police riddled with addicts, illiterates and insurgents

Jonathan Owen and Brian Brady

Less than a quarter of the army and less than one in seven police units are rated as "CM1" - meaning they are capable of operating independently. Yet the true picture is worse. (Kappeler/Getty)

The strategic plan of creating an Afghan security
force to replace US and British troops fighting in Afghanistan is in
serious disarray with local forces a fraction of their reported size,
infiltrated by the Taliban at senior levels, and plagued by corruption
and drug addiction, an Independent on Sunday investigation can reveal.

the way in which their capacity has been assessed over several years,
during which time tens of billions of dollars have been spent on
building up Afghan security forces, is so flawed that it has been

Less than a quarter of the army and
less than one in seven police units are rated as "CM1" - meaning they
are capable of operating independently. Yet the true picture is worse.
An audit of the Capability Milestone (CM) rating system used to rate
police and army units has revealed a misleading picture of the true
level of progress.

Arnold Field, US Special Inspector General for
Afghanistan Reconstruction (Sigar) described the system as "unreliable
and inconsistent". His audit warns that Afghan military and police
assessments "have overstated operational capabilities", with even the
top-rated units unable to operate independently. As many as 50 per cent
of police units in some areas are failing drugs tests it notes. On one
occasion, coalition soldiers witnessed Afghan police openly smoking
cannabis and unwilling to conduct operations or leave their compound.

report details how army units can be as low as 59 per cent of their
supposed size when it comes to going on duty. On average, only 74 per
cent of Afghan soldiers in combat units were actually found present for
duty, according to the report.

It warns of
critical shortages of military advisers needed to "meet the demands of
current force development goals", with a shortfall of more than 200
mentoring and partnering teams as of March this year.

International Security Assistance Force's (Isaf) leaders acknowledge
problems with the local security forces, as they brace themselves for
an increase in attacks over the summer months. Isaf hopes to increase
the combined strength of the Afghan Army and police from under 200,000
at the start of 2009 to over 300,000 next year, in the hope that this
will accelerate a withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan.

an analysis by the IoS reveals that the true strength of the Afghan
security forces - those that have been trained and judged to be able to
operate independently - is barely 34,000. This is almost a seventh of
the 236,000 claimed by Nato/Isaf.

have been able to infiltrate Afghan security forces at senior levels.
In one case, a police commander was found to have been involved in a
number of indirect fire and IED attacks on coalition forces, as well as
the kidnap and murder of a American civilian. In another, a known
Taliban commander was discovered serving in the Afghan army.

examples, cited in a recent US Department of Defense report, highlight
what coalition forces are up against in trying to push through
political pledges of building up a sustainable Afghan security force.
Corruption is now so rife within the army that officers are now
allocated postings through a lottery in an attempt to stop people
buying positions.


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The police are seen as a
particular problem. A purge of the corruption-riddled force by the
Afghan Ministry of the Interior (MOI) resulted in more than one-in-five
senior police leaders being sacked or prosecuted for corruption or
misconduct in the past 18 months. All senior police and MOI officials
must declare their income and assets, and take lie-detector tests.

a tenth of police units are rated effective. Some 70 per cent of police
are illiterate, and half have had no formal training, according to
experts. In a specialist newsletter published by the Nato Training
Mission they warn that current training capacity "falls short of
meeting the urgent and basic needs of training the untrained ANP and
new recruits."

A trail of confidential
correspondence between Foreign Office officials, obtained by the IoS,
highlights the concerns within the government. The drive to speed up
training in response to political pressure for an exit strategy has led
to officials lowering the bar. "We want high quality recruits - as high
a quality as we can get for forthcoming activities. This means lowering
the bar - a bit - in terms of literacy, but maintaining it in terms of
[for example] the threshold on drug addiction," admitted an official in
the British Provincial Reconstruction Team in Lashkar Gah in June last

101st British soldier dies in Sangin

Royal Marine killed in an explosion in Afghanistan last week was named
yesterday as David Charles Hart, 23, of 40 Commando. He was the 101st
British serviceman to die in Sangin and the 314th to die in
Afghanistan. His death, coincided with the Defence Secretary's
announcement that British troops were pulling out of the town.

His family said he showed "Commando spirit" throughout his life.

died after he was caught in a blast while on foot patrol in the Sangin
District of Helmand Province. He was deployed to Afghanistan in April,
to mentor the Afghan National Police in Sangin.

parents Dilys and Chris Hart, from Upper Poppleton, North Yorkshire,
said: "Throughout his life David showed the qualities of the Commando
spirit, he had a great personality and was a friend to everyone.

cheerfulness, his sense of humour and his smile will be sorely missed,
but never forgotten. We are immensely proud, as he was, of his

The Ministry of Defence said
Hart passed out for duty as a Royal Marines Commando on 16 October 2009
and was awarded the Commando Medal.

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